Politicians' Promises and What They're Worth
By Dennis Loo (7/18/16)
The GOP Convention started today and the Democrats are going to have their's next week. Watching some of the GOP convention footage is so laughable and so awful it's like watching a car accident involving numerous vehicles happen in slow motion with clowns in a circus ring.
In light of the deluge of promises that both Trump and Clinton have made and will make, I thought it might be useful to cite just a few of the outright lies told by our incumbent, who has made a fetish of promises and breaking them, while rhetorically claiming to keep his promises. Unlike Clinton and Trump who both have record high unfavorability ratings, making it the first time in US history that both candidates are more unpopular than they are popular, Obama came into office and got re-elected with higher approval ratings than disapproval. Yet consider what he has actually done compared to the empty promises that "we are going to win so big" (Trump) and that we will "do it together" (Clinton).
Obama's Memo Bypasses Whistleblower Rights
By Dennis Loo (5/28/13)
In a New York Times' OpEd piece by Eyal Press, published 5/27/13, Press reveals a barely noticed White House memo issued on January 25, 2013 that sabotages whisteblowers' ability to protect themselves against retaliatory firings by the Federal Government. As Press notes:
the memo instructs the director of national intelligence and the Office of Personnel Management to establish standards that would give federal agencies the power to fire employees, without appeal, deemed ineligible to hold “noncritical sensitive” jobs. It means giving them immense power to bypass civil service law, which is the foundation for all whistle-blower rights.
In other words, someone who blows the whistle on corruption, crimes, egregious and consequential incompetence, and so on, can, under this memo, be fired by the agency they work for simply by having their job be newly designated as "noncritical sensitive." By labeling their job as such, the agency can claim that it was not firing someone for their whistleblowing, but merely because their job was now "noncritical sensitive." The odd terminology here appears to be designed so as to say that while your job is "sensitive," it is no longer "critical," and therefore we are terminating you. What's sensitive here, of course, is your access to sensitive information.
Civil service law protects whistleblowers because it permits those who are being fired or otherwise persecuted for their revelations of wrongdoing by allowing them to sue for monetary damages and/or to keep their jobs. The grounds for this is that they have been unfairly and unreasonably targetted for retaliation. This memo would undo that protection, thus exposing whistleblowers to persecution without recourse for the whistleblowers to seek judicial protection. In short, this memo in effect declares that the Obama Administration believes in transparency and the importance of whistleblowers as long as whistleblowers don't actually do any whistleblowing. If they do, then they can expect that they will be fired forthwith and have no grounds to sue for that. As such, this little noticed memo reveals the modus operandi of the Obama Administration: say that you are on the side of the angels while covertly doing the work of the devil.
What the Climate March Did and Didn't Do
By Dennis Loo (9/24/14)
As reported by The Guardian on September 4, 2013 in “Barack Obama should practice what he preaches about climate change:”
When President Barack Obama gave his long-awaited climate change speech in June, many US environmentalists bought the notion that a green giant was awakening in the White House.
"Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it's not going to protect you from the coming storm," Obama warned climate laggards then.
Here's a problem though. One environmental foot-dragger President Obama could have addressed this comment to is ... President Obama.
On Wednesday, the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao) is expected to approve a US-backed text that would restrict Europe's efforts to make airlines pay for their emissions under its carbon trading scheme, and stall global efforts to charge airlines for their pollution until 2016 or later.
In recent years, Europe has tried to make aviation pay under its emissions trading system (ETS), and with good reason.
Airlines are the fastest growing source of global greenhouse gas output. Already responsible for 5% of the world's annual global warming, by 2030 their emissions are projected to double from 2005 levels.
Yet last November , Obama signed a Congressional act authorising the US transport secretary to prevent US airlines from participating in the ETS. (Emphasis added)
Obama’s speeches about the importance of addressing global warming parallels his speeches about how Guantanamo, torture, and indefinite detention are not consistent with “American values.” That is, he makes speeches pretending that he is decrying his very own policies. This is his particular variant of having your cake and eating it too: articulately pose as being on the side of the angels while doing the work of the devil. No wonder Wall Street gave him at least $20 million more for his 2008 campaign for the presidency than it gave to his opponent John McCain. They knew that when Obama spoke publicly about clamping down on Wall Street that he was merely doing PR.
I want to return to the question now of whether or not the growing climate catastrophe can be solved on the grassroots level, as some people think seeing the outpouring of public demand for this in the past few days.
What should be clear – and isn’t remotely yet clear enough – is that it doesn’t matter to those who hold power and it doesn’t matter to this system of capitalism-imperialism how many people are in the streets if the people in the streets remain within the confines of politics as usual. You cannot defeat the enemy to our planet with a “million cuts” and by not recognizing what you are really up against and what it is going to take to end this drive to extinction that the powers that be are hell bent on taking the whole planet into.
The actions in the last few days by hundreds of thousands of people around the world, representing the wishes of billions of people on the planet, are wonderful. But they are not anywhere nearly enough.
As revolutionaries in China said during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution: “Cast Away Illusions. Prepare for Struggle.”
Guantanamo: What I Knew was Scant and False
By Leslie Becerra (2/18/14)
Editor’s Note: This is one of many student papers written in response to the Close Guantanamo Now! National Tour’s Last Stop at Cal Poly Pomona on January 17, 2014. Reprinted by author’s permission.
I want to speak on the first point made by the talk, Obama and his real intentions. From the beginning of his campaign Obama sold himself as a president of the people and for the people. He stated that if made president he would seek to close Guantanamo Bay and free those detained there but a year into his second term Guantanamo Bay remains open. Why? Well, according to the President of the United States, we are to blame Congress. Despite the many requests for the complete closure of Guantanamo Bay Congress has decided to keep it open. Although Congress may have an interest in keeping Guantanamo Bay open we can easily place the blame on Obama. Again, why?
As commander in chief Obama, our president, has the power to order the closure of Guantanamo Bay with or without the approval of Congress. So the real reason behind Guantanamo Bay keeping its doors open over 10 years later is because Obama does not want to shut it down. He has the power to free the detainees yet has chosen not to use it and instead closed down the office responsible for transmitting the releases. This is one of the most important points made during the talk, if not the most important, because it is an example of how our government no longer has the people’s interest in mind but rather its own personal gain.
We live in a country whose people are taught that the government governs with our best interest at hand but how often is that true? In whose interests is it to maintain Guantanamo Bay open? Because it is not in any human’s interests to allow any government to do what our government has been doing to these people. We are all human beings therefore our lives are all equally valuable. If we continue to allow our government to act as they please and ignore our requests we will have no guarantee that they won’t do the same to us. Obama’s failure to close Guantanamo Bay shows how the people who run our government are no longer the common day civilian but rather those few with power and money. Capitalism has allowed for money and corporations to have a say in what our government does thus the people’s best interest gets ignored. It is because of such reason that we must take responsibility to get Guantanamo Bay closed.
Who is Barack Obama Really? An Examination of Obama's Domestic Policies
By Dennis Loo (10/8/12)
One of Obama’s 2008 campaign promises was to bring transparency to governmental decision-making processes. In his platform he promised with respect to international agreements: "We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; [or] give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors.”
In June 2012 Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch posted online a section of the leaked draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the U.S. and eight Pacific nations. In it the U.S. negotiator, appointed by Obama, was and is negotiating an agreement in which a parallel international court to that of national government’s courts and governments would be created, the members of which would be selected by the corporations themselves, which could overrule any national or local rules regarding labor practices or resource management (such as pollution and renewable energy practices) and award monetary damages to the corporations from national treasuries should corporate profits be adversely impacted by those rules.
As described by Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch,
“Ron Wyden, who is the chairman of the trade committee in the Senate, the committee with jurisdiction over the TPP, has been denied access to the text, as has his staff, who has security clearance, to a point where this man who has supported agreements like this in the past has filed legislation demanding he have the right to see the agreement that he’s supposed to be having oversight with. He’s on the Intelligence Committee, and he has security clearance, so he can see our nuclear secrets. He just can’t see this corporate bill of rights that is trying to be slipped into effect in the name of being a trade agreement. It’s a very elegant Trojan horse strategy. You brand it one thing, and then you put an agenda that could not survive sunshine into this agreement.”
In this same interview, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! asked Wallach to comment on the Obama Administration’s statement about its transparency regarding the TPP:
AMY GOODMAN: I want to read part of the comment we got from the U.S. trade representative’s office when we invited them on today’s show. They wrote, quote, "The Obama Administration has infused unprecedented transparency into the TPP negotiations. We have worked with Members of Congress ... [and] invited stakeholders to every round of negotiations where they have given presentations and met with individual negotiating teams. ... We are always looking for ways to enhance provisions on transparency and public participation." Lori Wallach, your comment?
LORI WALLACH: Well, to start with, the idea of transparency of the current negotiators is a one-way mirror. We can basically talk to them and do presentations. But as this leak shows, nothing that the public interest organizations—and it’s a huge array of organizations, from faith groups to consumer groups, environmental, labor—nothing that we have said is now reflected in the U.S. position in this negotiation, which I’m sad to say is the most extreme. I mean, the U.S. is even opposing proposals in this agreement to try and make sure countries have the ability to use financial regulation to ensure financial stability. The U.S. positions don’t reflect what we’ve been saying, but we can talk at them.